Saturday, October 18, 2003

Women recount business success

Local chamber marks a year

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Terri Simmons of Blue Ash listens intently during a panel discussion at the "Women Mean Business" conference.
(Gary Landers photo)
DOWNTOWN - Donna Salyers remembers more than a decade ago, when she was just starting her business selling artificial furs.

Loretta Swit, the actress famous for her role as Hot Lips on the television series M*A*S*H, wanted one of the products. But she didn't want the kit, which Salyers then sold, to sew it together herself. She wanted it fully assembled.

"I said, 'I'll just turn it over to the ready-to-wear department,'" Salyers jokes now about her one-employee company. "And that night in my kitchen, I made Loretta's coat."

That kind of determination is among the biggest factors in helping women succeed in business. Friday, Salyers and several other female entrepreneurs and professionals recounted the lessons they learned to the Greater Cincinnati Women's Chamber of Commerce.

The event at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center marked the first anniversary for the chamber, which has about 185 members, and turned the occasion into a day-long series of networking and professional-development seminars. The panelists agreed that the group could help provide a much-needed advice and support network for women entrepreneurs, a "survival kit," as Hamilton County Municipal Judge Nadine Allen said.

Organizers of the event, called "Women Mean Business," acknowledge that the numbers are against them. According to the Washington-based Center for Women's Business Research, Greater Cincinnati ranks 41st among the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas in the number, employment and sales of women-owned companies.

Organizers said women have specific networking and support needs, and even different business goals than men.

"Men start businesses to make money. That's the beginning, and that's the end," said attorney Robin Harvey of Baker & Hostetler's Cincinnati office. "Women bring other motivations. The biggest one is, they want control of their lives.

"Women create business plans by saying, 'What do I do to make ends meet, and can I do it in 30 hours a week?'" she added.

Another panelist, Michelle Greene-Stradford of Lockwood Greene Engineers, emphasized the importance of continuing to work toward advancement. She told of being passed over for a promotion given to a male colleague, then earning the same job a year later.

"Reality hurts, and politics are real," she said. "Sometimes, we just have to deal with it and move on."


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